It Takes a Lotta Nerve

Two weeks ago I spoke to a group of women about my career as a writer. In general I answered their questions about both my books and the industry itself. One woman seated near me asked most of the “How do you…?” questions, and at the end of the meeting, she confessed that she’s been writing for years and has five completed stories that she’s never sent out. Never.

I asked her why she’d never submitted anything, and she told me she didn’t feel any were “Ready” to submit. She didn’t know anyone to ask to “edit” her work.

I’ve never read any of this woman’s work. I don’t even know her, other than having seen her at a few meetings. I told her when she had something she felt was ready to send me the first 50 pages and I’d look at them for her. I gave her my business card with my email address and phone number, and we left it at that.

Will she send me 50 pages?

I don’t know. My guess is she won’t. Although I don’t know her age, I’m pretty sure she’s in her seventies. If she’s been writing as long as she indicated and has five mss completed (around 300 pages each, she said) and hasn’t taken the next step (found someone to look at the work and edit it), I don’t think she’ll do it now.

People often say, “I have this story I want to write” or “I’ve always wanted to write a book.” Many people actually sit down and start to write the story, but never finish. And then there are those who write a story (fictional or non-fiction), perhaps even share it with friends and/or family members, but never take the next step. They never submit the ms to someone who will give it a critical review. They’re afraid, and their fears are many.

Some fear their writing (grammar, spelling, idea) isn’t good enough. They’re afraid it will be like when they were in school and their papers came back all marked up with red ink. Some fear their writing has exposed emotions they don’t want exposed. The subject is personal, so any criticism of the work will be taken personally. For some the story is like their child. It may have flaws, but it’s their creation and they don’t want it changed in any way.

Over the years I’ve taught many writing classes. I’ve read work that’s eloquent, imaginative, funny, provocative, and absolutely beautiful, but years later, when I meet up with some of these former students, I discover they never finished what they were working on or never submitted anything. With some life simply got in the way, but with most, I think it was that fear of taking the next step. That possibility of being rejected.

With today’s ease of self-publishing, I’m sure some of those writers will get their work out. And if they’re brave enough and wise enough to hire a good editor, we the reading public will have a chance to see stories that years before would have sat in desk drawers. But there will still be a lot of good writers and good stories that will never be published in any form because it takes a lotta nerve to put your stories out for others to read and possibly criticize.

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5 Responses to It Takes a Lotta Nerve

  1. Maris, This is a great blog. I have long suffered from the inability to spell; hell, I nearly flunked every spelling test in school. For a long time, I was embarrassed to submit anything do to that in and of itself. I found a mentor in my college professor, Loren Gruber, PhD and he encouraged me to just tell the stories and someone will straighten out the spelling problems. I published my first article in a quarterly review in my Junior year of college.

    Then along came the personal computer with spell check. Now, I am mentoring younger writers who want their story to get out.

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      Thank you, Scott. I am/was like you…a terrible speller. The computer has really helped, but when I started writing, I paid others to proofread my work. It was worth it. I always said they made me look better than I am.

      Good for you for mentoring others. And good for you for having the nerve to move past your fears and tell the stories.

  2. Diane Burton says:

    Fear holds so many of us back from doing what we want. It takes guts to send out a query or a submission. The old adage that you can lead a horse to water certainly applies to those who write but never submit.

  3. Melissa Keir says:

    Fear is the biggest thing for many of us to overcome. I think once we get over that….we are stepping on the right road. Thanks for sharing your wealth of knowledge and motivating others.

  4. Some of us do persevere, but it is discouraging. You helped keep me going, Maris, by being my MWA mentor and reviewing my first 50 pages. After that, I did get an agent. Through her, my manuscript has been read by three or four publishers, but not accepted so far. She hasn’t started submitting to the smaller publishers yet. It is a “non-traditional” mystery which makes it a hard sell
    . I’ve completed nine manuscripts and tons more that I’ve stopped three chapters in. I’ll keep going until I die. Who knows?

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